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One of the major draws of 1960s Seiko’s 6619 automatic line - like the 1967 Seiko 6619-8280 MACV-SOG Arabic dial automatic here, with vintage Waltham military compass, NOS USMIL strap, and MACV-SOG patch - were their amazingly simplistic dials and hands.  These combine to form its single greatest aesthetic quality – symmetry

 

But what else is significant about this Seiko 6619...

 

Ah yes – this is one of at least four Seiko divers procured by the U.S. Military Assistance Command Viet Nam – Studies and Observations Group (MACV-SOG) and issued to U.S. Special Forces during the conflict.  During the era these were made, Arabic numeral dial designs were rare and quite the departure from the norm.  It’s a safe assessment the Arabic numerals were one of the aspects MACV-SOG favored, and USMIL forces assigned to the secretive group were either issued these watches or instructed to purchase them at the PX before a covert ops tour.

 

A highly classified multi-service USMIL Special Operations unit, MACV-SOG conducted covert unconventional warfare operations prior to and during the Viet Nam War.  The unit conducted cross-border operations - interdiction, tapping of enemy commo lines, identification of targets, and the rescue of downed USMIL pilots - from Viet Nam into neighboring Laos, Cambodia, and North Viet Nam, with the USG infamously denying its existence until declassification in 1997.  SOG operations levied a high toll on North Vietnamese logistic supply lines and bases in Laos and Cambodia following the early 1968 Viet Cong Tet Offensive. 

 

But to operate in a non-attributable manner in these countries – where the USMIL wasn’t supposed to be – required atypical equipment.

 

Established in 1963 and principally run by Conrad “Ben” Baker, the USMIL's Okinawa, Japan-based Counter Insurgency Support Office’s (CISO) main mission was to issue standard and untraceable (read, sterile in appearance to offer a fig leaf of plausible deniability when USMIL forces were operating somewhere they weren’t supposed to be in the countries in and around Viet Nam) gear, clothing, and weapons to Special Forces in Viet Nam, to include the USMIL’s MACV-SOG.  It would cease operation in 1973, following the U.S. withdrawal.

 

The story of CISO and Ben Baker, these Seiko watches, and the work of SOG operatives is told by Frank Greco in his book, “Running Recon: A Photo Journey with SOG Special Ops Along the Ho Chi Minh Trail.”  The Seiko 5's ordered by Ben Baker have become much sought after in vintage military and Seiko collecting communities.  Want more on the MACV-SOG use of Seiko?  Read these two Watches of Espionage articles, here and here.

 

Per Greco’s well-regarded tome and our additional in-depth research, SOG forces used four different Seiko references.  Some were CISO-issued beginning in circa 1968 and some preceded this time (so-called “Pre-CISO” watches) – beginning with the 6619 (first the 6619-8280 here, followed by the 6619-8060); then the 6119-8100, 7005-8030, and the non-Arabic dialed 6106-8100. 


This Seiko 6619 MACV-SOG comes on a NOS USMIL nylon strap, and with nylon strap, springbar tool, SOG patch, vintage Waltham military compass, and rugged travel case.

 

MACV-SOG 1967 Seiko 6619-8280 Automatic, w/Waltham Military Compass

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  • DIAL: Brilliant steel-gray sunburst Arabic dial  -  each hour indice is marked with a lumed Arabic numeral, atypical for Seiko during this era; matching baton hands.  Day and date function at 3 o'clock position- with the quite atypical color contrast between the two - works as designed (only the date is quickset, and not the day, by design).  Lume shade is identical throughout dial and handset.

     

    CASE: Stainless-steel case measures 36.5mm x 43mm, with matching snap caseback - all inscriptions are legible and crisp.

     

    CRYSTAL: Domed acrylic crystal, no scratches or cracks.

     

    BAND: This 6619 comes with a dark green new-old stock nylon USMIL strap, which features matte hardware - note the USMIL nylon strap is slightly smaller than the watch lugs by design, same as it was when issued to fit the Waltham military compass; this Seiko also comes with a new black nylon strap.  Both compliment the military look and heritage of this MACV-SOG Seiko. 

     

    MOVEMENT: 17-jewel Seiko 6619 automatic movement, manufactured April 1967, which beats at 18,000 bph.  We have performed a full service on this Seiko SOG watch.

     

    CROWN: Unsigned stainless-steel crown, mostly recessed.

     

    This Seiko 6619 comes with a working vintage matte green Waltham military compass, akin to those used by MACV-SOG and other NATO military partner forces during the era, and a MACV-SOG unit patch.

     

    A portion of the sales from all of our vintage MACV-SOG Seiko watches are donated to the Special Operations Association and the Third Option Foundation.  The SOA benifits a range of programs for the USMIL Special Operations Community from scholarships to POW/MIA efforts; the Third Option provides support to surviving family of CIA Special Activities Center (SAC) operators and offers medical services for active-duty operators.

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